Academic studies into the effectiveness of donor and foundation-supported media development and journalism support programmes that address disinformation & information disorder.

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A book review by Audrey Hatfield is available here.

Much of existing research on disinformation and fake news focuses on Western cases and is grounded in the psychology of individual behavior. “Disinformation in the Global South”, a book edited by Herman Wasserman and Dani Madrid-Morales, explores how these behaviors are often mired in specific historical, social and political contexts. Along with a team of experts, Wasserman and Madrid-Morales outline the histories, theories, and methods that encompass disinformation and sample cases from the Global South.


This study investigates the impact of 'fake' news in the context of COVID-19 in Nigeria, which led to fake cures headlines. The authors conclude that “...social media was overwhelmingly the most used type of media for news consumption generally, and the most important source of news about the pandemic. [...] recalling and believing fake news headlines and using social media as the main source of news, significantly decreases the likelihood of believing credible and real news stories.”

University of Oxford - FELIX M SIMO & CHICO Q CAMARGO

The authors "trace the origins and use of the ‘infodemic’ metaphor and examine the blind spots inherent in this seemingly intuitive term. Drawing from literature in the cognitive sciences and communication studies, we show why information does not spread like a virus and point out how the ‘infodemic’ metaphor can be misleading, as it conflates multiple forms of social behaviour, oversimplifies a complex situation and helps constitute a phenomenon for which concrete evidence remains patchy. We point out the existing tension between the usefulness of the widespread use of the term ‘infodemic’ and its uncritical adoption, which we argue can do more harm than good, potentially diluting the quality of academic work, public discourse and contributing to state overreach in policymaking."

Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact., Vol. 4, No. CSCW2, Article 130.

This exploratory study examined how journalists, fact-checkers, and Internet users in Bangladesh experience and confront online misinformation. Among its findings, it notes that most Bangladeshi news organizations do not have dedicated fact-checking units and do not actively debunk viral misinformation and hoaxes; the three notable Bangladeshi fact-checking organizations are under-resourced, often work voluntarily, and face political pressure, and there is a disconnect between the mainstream media organizations and the independent fact-checkers. The research paper recommends collaboration between the two.


Since 2016, there has been an explosion of interest in misinformation and its role in elections. Research by news outlets, government agencies, and academics alike has shown that millions of Americans have been exposed to dubious political news online. However, relatively little research has focused on documenting the effects of consuming this content. Our results suggest that many claims about the effects of exposure to false news may be overstated, or, at the very least, misunderstood.

The International Journal of Press/Politics - EDDA HUMPRECH, FRANK ESSER, PETER VAN AELST

Online disinformation is considered a major challenge for modern democracies. It is widely understood as misleading content produced to generate profits, pursue political goals, or maliciously deceive. Our starting point is the assumption that some countries are more resilient to online disinformation than others. To understand what conditions influence this resilience, we choose a comparative cross-national approach. In the first step, we develop a theoretical framework that presents these country conditions as theoretical dimensions. In the second step, we translate the dimensions into quantifiable indicators that allow us to measure their significance on a comparative cross-country basis. In the third part of the study, we empirically examine eighteen Western democracies. A cluster analysis yields three country groups: one group with high resilience to online disinformation (including the Northern European systems, for instance) and two country groups with low resilience (including the polarized Southern European countries and the United States). In the final part, we discuss the heuristic value of the framework for comparative political communication research in the age of information pollution.

AFRICAN JOURNALISM STUDIES - Herman Wasserman & Dani Madrid-Morales

In recent years, concerns about the perceived increase in the amount of “fake news” have become prevalent in discussions about media and politics, particularly in the United States and Europe. However, debates around “fake news”, even if some object to the use of the term due to it being loosely defined, appear to speak of processes that occur not only in the Global North but also elsewhere. In Africa, mis- and disinformation campaigns have been used to influence political agendas, and governments have responded with countermeasures. This article explores the phenomenon in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa using data from a two-wave online survey (N = 1847). We find that perceived exposure to disinformation is high, and that trust in social and national media is low. We also identify a significant relationship between higher levels of perceived exposure to disinformation and lower levels of media trust in South Africa. The limitations of this study, which focuses on a subset of the population that is highly educated, the implications of our findings, and recommendations for future research are discussed.


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